In recent years, seeds are a rich source of nutrients that may have many beneficial effects on your health. A quick search across the web offers an overwhelming amount of conflicting information about the cannabis plant and its nutritional values. To help curb the confusion, here are some interesting evidence-based facts you need to know about adding hemp seeds to your diet.
First off, what are hemp seeds?
Cannabis sativa is an ancient Asian crop, which has been grown and cultivated for about 10,000 years. It is known for containing the psychoactive and toxic compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD), the relevance of which depends on the intended use of the plant.(1)
The cultivation and consumption of the plant with low (<0.3%) THC levels (hemp), or rather its seeds, are on the rise, as more and more studies are discovering their nutritional and pharmaceutical potential.(2)
And what are hemp seeds used for?
The hemp plant can be used in a multitude of ways. Hemp seeds are a common ingredient in food production, hemp flowers in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, fiber derived from hemp stems is used in paper and textile production, shives can serve as construction or animal bedding materials, while roots are natural soil decontaminators.(1) While the plant itself is very interesting, that’s not why we’re here, so let’s talk about the seeds themselves. Hemp seeds with low THC levels have no psychoactive effects, but they do have plenty of other interesting effects on the body.
They are edible and a rich source of nutrients. Research shows that they have a nutritional profile rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.(3) It makes them perfect for consumption with all dietary preferences, including plant-based and gluten-free.
Hemp seeds are also composed of over 30% oil, 90% of which are unsaturated fatty acids that help protect against cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes.(2) They have a desirable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which is otherwise hard to obtain in a typical western diet, but is very important for heart and brain health, as it is associated with a lower risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune, inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases.(2)
To follow this scientific train of thought, it’s worth mentioning that some studies have also found that hempseed oil improves the clinical symptoms of atopic dermatitis.(4) They also showed improvements of certain symptoms in some mental(5) and neurologic disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.(6) Animal studies even suggest that hemp seeds may contribute to increased longevity, improved memory and a healthier gut microbiome(7), but further human trials are still required to confirm this, as existing studies showed contradictory results.(2)
What are the negatives of using hemp seeds in food?
Nothing’s perfect, and despite this article’s narrative thus far – the same goes for hemp seeds. For example, the way they are processed can influence their nutritional properties,(2) so be sure to buy products that have properly documented nutritional values. Hemp seeds can also change the food’s color, taste and consistency, and not always for the better.(2) Luckily, researchers have found an appropriate level of hempseed fractions that should be added to food to improve its nutritional worth, but not enough to significantly alter its taste and composition.(2)
So, the next time you are faced with a choice between products, make sure to grab one containing hemp seeds, your body will be grateful!
(1) Farinon B, Molinari R, Costantini L, Merendino N. The Seed of Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition. Nutrients. 2020; 1935. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/7/1935/htm [Accessed 05.10.2021].
(2) Leonard W, Zhang P, Ying D, Fang Z. Hempseed in food industry: Nutritional value, health benefits, and industrial applications. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2020; 19:282–308. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4337.12517 [Accessed 5.10.2021].
(3) Callaway, J.C. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica. 2004; 140: 65–72.
(4) Callaway, J., Schwab, U., Harvima, I., Halonen, P., Mykkänen, O., Hyvönen, P., & Järvinen, T. Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2005; 16: 87–94. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/09546630510035832 [Accessed 15.10.2021].
(5) Palmieri, B., Laurino, C., & Vadalà, M. Short-term efficacy of CBD-enriched hemp oil in girls with dysautonomic syndrome after human papillomavirus vaccination. Israel Medical Association Journal. 2017; 19: 79–84.
(6) Rezapour-Firouzi, S., Arefhosseini, S. R., Mehdi, F., Mehrangiz, E. M., Baradaran, B., Sadeghihokmabad, E., … Zamani, F. Immunomodulatory and therapeutic effects of Hot-nature diet and co-supplemented hemp seed, evening primrose oils intervention in multiple sclerosis patients. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2013; 21: 473–480. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2013.06.006 [Accessed 15.10.2021].
(7) Li, X., Liu, Y., Wang, B., Chen, C., Zhang, H., & Kang, J. X. Identification of a sustainable two-plant diet that effectively prevents age-related metabolic syndrome and extends lifespan in aged mice. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2018; 51, 16–26. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.09.003 [Accessed 15.10.2021].
(8) Schwab, U. S., Callaway, J. C., Erkkilä, A. T., Gynther, J., Uusitupa, M. I., & Järvinen, T. Effects of hempseed and flaxseed oils on the profile of serum lipids, serum total and lipoprotein lipid concentrations and haemostatic factors. European Journal of Nutrition. 2006; 45: 470–477. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-006-0621-z [Accessed 15.10.2021].
(9) Kaul, N., Kreml, R., Austria, J. A., Richard, M. N., Edel, A. L., Dibrov, E., … Pierce, G. N. A comparison of fish oil, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil supplementation on selected parameters of cardiovascular health in healthy volunteers. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2008; 27: 51–58.